Directors of Football mark a shift in club recruitment across all facets of world football. Leading this change in structure is a man who is very well-regarded among some of the highest in the game. Luis Campos has made a name for himself with signings like Bernardo Silva, Fabinho, and Nicolas Pépé as well as developing a reputation for finding budget deals and turning those deals into massive profit.
He has proved himself in France with Ligue 1 sides A.S Monaco and LOSC Lille, but with Campos rumoured to be interested in a switch to England, we will analyse how his transfer tactics could translate to the top flight of England in this data analysis and the statistics that may hint at the approach he takes in his next job.
King of bargains
In the past 20 years, there has been a large influx of money put into football from all over the globe. This influx has produced an increased correlation of money spent with on-field success. Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, and Chelsea are just some examples of clubs that have been beneficiaries from rich ownership. However, the beauty of Campos is his ability to work under a limited budget.
Campos doesn’t just work under smaller budgets, he thrives under them. To quote the man himself, “[he is] completely in love with signing players for between €0m to €3m or €3m to €6m.” The majority of his most successful signings have all backed up this quote.
Campos, in his previous job at Monaco, was afforded a little more financial flexibility and thus he invested in some larger deals. At Lille, however, Campos has been meticulous about where and when to splash the cash versus looking for cheaper options.
In this graph, we notice a general trend in Campos’ signings at Lille. Of the 10 signings analysed, eight of the players were valued below one million euros at the time of purchase. Now, all but one have amassed a market value of at least five million euros. Campos is at his best, arguably, when the stakes are lower. He very rarely ever misses with these deals and if in the rare case he does, Campos is quick to try and make up the loss.
Even with the expanded budget at A.S Monaco, Campos showed his versatility in transfers with a mix of high-profile signings like James Rodríguez who was signed for nearly €50 million and more under the radar moves like Thomas Lemar and Anthony Martial who were both bought for approximately five million euros and sold for upwards of €60 million.
With all three of these players combined, Campos made a profit of nearly €230 million. This isn’t even considering the gains from the sales of Manchester City ace Bernardo Silva and Chelsea’s on-loan Tiémoué Bakayoko. The beauty of the latter is that Bakayoko is now widely considered a flop, but still netted Campos €45 million. There’s no doubting that he was an integral part of Monaco’s 2016/17 UEFA Champions League run, but Campos recognised that he was replaceable and took the money.
Hit and run
The example of Tiémouné Bakayoko highlights one of Campos’ strongest attributes as a scout and Director of Football. Campos isn’t afraid to sell his better players if it means he has more money to invest in positions that need to be improved on. Take the summer transfer window of the 2015/16 season for example; Monaco spent around €110 million on players but also took in €205 million on departures. This balance was maintained throughout Campos’ time at Monaco and even more so at Lille.
While it seems most sensible to keep a team’s best players, Campos embraced the process of selling and starting over again. So far, this has worked to perfection and is a testament to the quality of scouting networks Campos has set up at his clubs.
Campos doesn’t just make money for his club, he produces results. Which, after all, is the most important thing in football. Even in times when it seems that he is prioritising financial gain, Campos is able to utilise his eye for the game to consistently find diamonds in the rough like Kylian Mbappé and Abdou Diallo who were both brought into the first team setup during Campos’ time at Monaco. Both players would go on to play for PSG and are valued at a combined €230 million.
Finds like these are why Monaco went from being in Ligue 2 in 2013 to finishing in the top three of Ligue 1 for the next three seasons. This change was all during Campos’ arrival in 2014 to his departure in 2016 when Monaco would finally win the league with an outstanding seven-point gap between them and PSG in second.
Trust the kids
Campos notably started his career as a Sporting Director by signing established stars like Falcao and Joâo Moutinho who were in the peak of their careers when they arrived at Monaco. That’s not to say that Campos did not sign any youngsters in his first year, but he made a point to build the base of his team with some veteran experience. From that summer of 2013 onwards, however, there has been a sharp decline in the age of players Campos has bought.
There are undoubtedly several instances where Campos has looked for veteran experience for his side, especially with his younger Lille side. The singings of Loïc Remy (31 at debut) and José Fonte (34 at debut) are two well-travelled players who have provided many of the young Lille players with a veteran figure to look up to. Lille are one of the youngest teams in the league with the average age being just 25 years old. But, this does not take away from the talent Campos has put together in this squad.
Campos’ preference for younger players is becoming more and more apparent. On numerous occasions, he has emphasised the need to build for the future. This is very relevant for a club like Lille who lack the financial stability that their competitors have.
In this chart, we assess the age of Campos’ signings by season. In this case, we looked at players who cost more than five million euros. From the 2013/14 window on, Campos clearly has switched his approach with larger financial deals. By buying young, Campos has much more flexibility if the player fails to perform. We see this in the data with Ivan Cavaleiro and Rony Lopes, who both were underwhelming after big summer moves (€30 million in total) but Monaco were able to eventually recoup €35 million from the two, meaning they didn’t even take a loss.
Campos will splash the cash on young players to a certain extent, but only if he’s positive the player can develop and improve. Nicolas Pépé and Thiago Mendes were both brought in for around €10 million, which represented a large chunk of Lille’s 2017/18 summer budget, but the two were impressive and subsequently sold for a combined €110 million. That’s €90 million in profit. These deals continued into last season’s window with the purchase of talented Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen (€13 million) and former wonder-kid Renato Sanches (€22 million). While the figures are large for two players who are 21 and 22 respectively, it is quoted that Lille will only consider “big offers” for Sanches and around €75 million for Osimhen. Two more examples of Campos hitting the lottery.
Campos is an interesting figure. He is a man who wants to take on challenges. It’s not a coincidence that his last two jobs have been at clubs struggling to stay up for the past decade. What’s so staggering about Campos’ projects is the sheer volume of movement in the transfer window. Campos has single-handily built squads from the ground up.
His current job at Lille is the epitome of this mass scale rebuild. His first season at Lille saw the club sell 30 players, while bringing in 27. The season was overshadowed by managerial disputes and an unsettled squad. The next summer was more toned down. Campos raised €80 million from 17 player sales and only spent €10 million on 15 players. This included players who are now the centrepiece of the current squad, Jonathan Ikoné (five million euros), Zeki Celik (two million euros), and Jonathan Bamba (free). All three were under 23 years of age and all three are now valued at more than €15 million. Finally, the last summer window brought in a massive €160 million from 16 departures and €100 million spent on 18 players. It is very rare to see a club be so resourceful with their money while also bringing in superb talent. Campos can do that.
Analysing the 17 “key” first team players, only one of those players was not brought in by Campos. A quite remarkable stat. And of course, the only player who survived the cut from Campos is a player now quoted to be worth €30 million: Gabriel Magalhães.
When Campos arrived at Lille in 2017, the young Brazilian was struggling to find a place in the squad and past management were considering selling him for less than one million euros. Fortunately for Magalhães, Campos saw potential and kept him. He is now an extremely formidable option in defence for any top team in Europe and arguably Lille’s player of the season, if not the previously mentioned Osimhen or Sanches.
At this point in his career, it’s fair to say that Luis Campos is a master of his craft. He has perfected the art of buying and selling, identifying young talent, and building teams with little amounts of financial support. If and when Campos decides the time is right for his next project, Europe’s top teams will certainly all be knocking on the door for the Portuguese’s services.
He has turned losers into winners, now we will wait to see if he wants to revamp a former European giant or a financially sound club who have lost their way on the pitch.